Daughter of Briton facing death penalty in Iraq ‘heartbroken and afraid’ as father misses wedding


The daughter of a retired British geologist facing the death penalty in Iraq has said she was “heartbroken and afraid” as her father remained in detention for her wedding day.

Leila Fitton was hoping that members of her family who live abroad – including her parents – would be able to celebrate her marriage on Sunday after they missed a UK ceremony because of the Covid pandemic.

But despite appeals, her father Jim Fitton remains in detention with the threat of execution hanging over him.

The 66-year-old has been accused of attempting to smuggle historical artefacts out of Iraq, where he had been on a geology and archaeology tour. He was arrested at an airport earlier this year when he was found to be carrying stones and shards of broken pottery that he had picked up on a historical site visit after being assured they had no value, according to his family.

He is now awaiting trial. The statutory punishment for the crime he is accused of is execution, his family said in a petition – signed by more than 120,000 people – that calls on the UK government to help facilitate his release.

Jim Fitton’s family describe him as a ‘geology nerd’ and ‘well travelled’

(Family photo/Change.org)

On Sunday, Ms Fitton said: “It breaks my heart that my father, Jim, is not here. The uncertainty of his situation and the horrible, but very real, possibility of the death penalty is hanging over us.”

She added: “This is supposed to be the best day of our lives, but instead we find ourselves heartbroken and afraid about what may happen to my father if the Foreign Office doesn’t step up to support him.”

Her husband, Sam Tasker, previously told The Independent that the family felt “completely abandoned” by the Foreign Office as the retired geologist’s trial – expected to take place from next week – approached.

Retired British geologist Jim Fitton and his wife Sarijah

(Family handout/PA)

Mr Fitton’s son-in-law said it was a “cautionary tale” for British citizens abroad not to expect the department “to save you if you get into trouble outside of your control”.

The Foreign Office says it opposes the death penalty but cannot interfere in the legal systems of other countries.

Ms Fitton, who lives in the UK, said: “We are hopeful that the support that we have received will be recognised by the Foreign Office and that they will step in so that Jim can come home for a belated celebration soon.”

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said: “We are providing consular support to a British national in Iraq and are in contact with the local authorities. The British government’s policy on the death penalty is clear: we oppose it in all circumstances, as a matter of principle.”


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